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Czech President's spokesperson calls proponents of refugee reception "the real extremists"

17.11.2015 2:16
People traditionally light candles on 17 November at the memorial to the November events of 1989 on Národní třída in Prague, Czech Republic. (PHOTO:  David Sedlecký, Wikimedia Commons)
People traditionally light candles on 17 November at the memorial to the November events of 1989 on Národní třída in Prague, Czech Republic. (PHOTO: David Sedlecký, Wikimedia Commons)

Tuesday's state holiday in the Czech Republic will see reverent commemorations of the events of 17 November from the years of 1989 and 1939, as well as demonstrations against migration, against the rejection of refugees, and against Government policy. Police are warning against extremist provocation and will be deploying several hundred officers in Prague alone.

The events of 17 November 1989, which led to the fall of the communist regime in Czechoslavkia will be commemorated in the morning by politicians at the memorial on Národní třída in Prague. Reverent commemorations will also be held, for example, in front of the Hlávkova Dormnitory in Prague to commemorate the victims of the Nazi persecution of Czechoslovak university students on 17 November 1939.

Both historical events will be commemorated by Czech President Miloš Zeman at Albertov in Prague, which is where the student march gathered 26 years ago before heading into the center of Prague. While last year a hostile crowd of his opponents, enraged some of his deeds and sayings, awaited him at Albertov, this year he will speak to his supporters.

Those people have convened a demonstration to support Zeman and members of the Bloc against Islam organization plan to attend it. Jiří Ovčáček, spokesperson for the Czech President, says Zeman will address those present.

The spokesperson objects to the characterization of the assembly at Albertov as one of extremists. "The real extremists who are threatening the safety of us all through their boundless helpfulness toward illegal migrants, coupled with their contempt and hatred for their own nation, will be assembling at other places in Prague," Ovčáček posted to his Facebook page.

Zeman's ideological opponents and the Bloc against Islam will both assemble in the center of Prague. At Náměstí Míru ("Square of Peace"), promoters of the Initiative against Hate Speech will demonstrate in the afternoon.

"We assert that people cannot be divided along the lines of nationality, race or religion. We say this country belongs to all people of good will," the Initiative said in a statement.

At that same time of day there will be a "happening" on Národní třída in Prague and Moravské náměstí in Brno called "Card for the Next President" (Karta pro příštího prezidenta) where participants will be able to write the names of Zeman's possible successors on a card. That group and the Initiative against Hate Speech will then join a demonstration called the Good Will Assembly (Setkání dobré vůle) on Wenceslas Square in Prague just before 16:00.

Organizer Martin Přikryl of the Podhradí association told the Czech News Agency that the opponents of Zeman are not planning to go to Albertov to see Zeman and his supporters. "We do not want to seek out confrontation and thereby become a part of their provocations," he said, adding that people in his view should "calm down and unite" given recent events.

During 17 November several other events are also scheduled. For example, on Národní třída the Bez komunistů.cz ("Without Communists.cz") group will form a human chain to commemorate the victims of Communism.

In the evening four people will be awarded the Paměti národa ("Memory of the Nation") honor at the State Opera. Right-wing extremists have also announced they plan to exploit the holiday.

The Workers Social Justice Party will demonstrate on Wenceslas Square in Prague for "national pride and sovereignty, against immigration and the dictates of Brussels". The National Democracy group will demonstrate against Government policy on Náměstí Republiky ("Republic Square").

Police leadership has warned against possible provocations by extremists. More officers will be deployed to the streets of Prague and other Czech cities because of that threat, as well as due to the increased security measures imposed after the terrorist attacks in Paris.

In the capital, according to Czech Police spokesperson Tomáš Hulan, several hundred police officers including an anti-conflict team and specialists from the Police Presidium will be deployed. Long-lasting significant restrictions on traffic are not planned, but traffic police will maintain order at events.   

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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17 November, Demonstrace, Extremism, Shromažďování



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